Exclusive Interview: Man United legend Gary Pallister talks about his 'love' for Cheltenham and Sir Alex Ferguson's passion for horse racing

Speaking to The Winners Enclosure ahead of Cheltenham Festival, four-time Premier League-winning Man United star Gary Pallister has described his love of horse racing and the partying that his legendary teammates enjoyed.

Pallister also spoke about the current problems with leadership at the club, and how the likes of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Dan Ashworth may seek to solve it.

Gary Pallister's Thoughts On The Cheltenham Festival

“I’m very fortunate that I do go to Cheltenham and I have been doing so for about the past seven years. I absolutely love it and it’s the one trip that I do look forward to, I haven’t been to Aintree unfortunately or to Ascot, but I've done Cheltenham a fair few times.

“It usually ends up with me being quite drunk - I’m sure there are a few funny stories but probably not ones I can remember!

“The racing is top drawer, the event itself is in a great setting and it’s great the show that they put on there at Cheltenham during the Festival.

“It’s the one day that’s marked out on my calendar - I usually go on the Tuesday for Champions Day, I’ve never done Gold Cup day. Sometimes I stay over for a couple of days and do Tuesday & Wednesday.

“To listen to that roar go up is a spine-tingling moment when the race starts, but I normally end up in the pub when it’s the Gold Cup on the Friday.”

Q. Where else have you been?

Q. Where else have you been? Sir Alex Ferguson famously let his players enjoy Chester Races on the day he retired in 2013

“We had days at Chester races, usually at the end of the season.

“The great thing about the gaffer was he didn’t like us playing golf during the week and he didn’t like us going horse racing during the week. So he didn’t like horse racing, and he didn't like golf but now he owns horses and has his own golf day! So he’s a bit of a hypocrite, bless him!

“His golf days are fantastic and his love of horses I think has given him a real interest since he’s retired from football. He’s got an investment in racing now in ownership and he’s had some great horses.

“I remember after winning the title in 1993, I think it was the day after we played Blackburn and we went to Chester races.

“We still had a game to play the week after, but we went to Chester and there’s a great video of Mark Hughes chatting on the TV where I don’t think he even knows what day it is! I think he must have been speaking in Welsh because nobody could understand a word he was saying!

“They would usually end up being boozy affairs, but back then we would still go out as a team on a Tuesday.

“If we had a Wednesday off, we would have what was known as a ‘team meeting’ to discuss how things were going. We’d be in the pub from the after training until late at night discussing tactics and how things were going, which was mainly just an excuse to have a few beers.

“Maybe it was frowned upon a little bit back then, but it was the norm at other clubs as well.”

If he heard you had been out, how did he respond, was he stricter than other managers you had in your career?

“It was after a Liverpool game where we went out and celebrated on a Wednesday night before we played on the Saturday. At half-time in the game on the Saturday we were getting beat and he tore me and three of the lads apart, who had been out with me.

“The rules with the PFA were that you don’t go out two days before a game, which would have been the Thursday and that was the ground rules for everybody not to be out on a Thursday or Friday.

“He gave me a dressing down for it, I said ‘it wasn’t a Thursday’, but he said ‘I don’t care, they’re not my rules - these are my rules’. He made them up as he went along!

“You know yourself as a professional, there’s certain limits you can go to and certain things you can’t do. I think I was with a very professional team and I don’t recall any of our boys at United going out two nights before a game, that's for sure.

“He would always keep a check on it, it wasn’t like we were doing stuff behind his back at all on a Tuesday. Bryan Robson would call him and say that we were going to go out and have a few beers to check it through with him.

“That’s the way it was, Liverpool and Arsenal sides of the past went down the same route and it wasn’t as frowned upon then as it is now.

“The money involved in football now, with professionalism where it is, footballers are not just that. They’re actual athletes, you wouldn’t have seen a six-pack in our dressing room back in the times I played.

“I think that’s the difference between players of my era and players now, I think they’re very finely tuned; so if they start going out drinking and things like that it’s probably frowned upon more.

Q. With what happened to Marcus Rashford last month, how would you have seen Ferguson handling that situation?

“The gaffer left Beckham out for a game against Leeds because he went to London. He wasn’t out drinking but he didn’t like players travelling long distances before games as he thought that would tire them out.

“Becks had done that, there wasn’t any drink involved but he left him out of the team; so i think that’s the way the gaffer dealt with it back then.

“Football changes, but from our rules he didn’t break the rules of going out because it was three nights before the game; but if you do that you can’t not turn up for training and that’s the mistake Marcus made.

“I thought the punishment of a fine and leaving him out of that next game was enough. It’s been dealt with by Erik ten Hag and the team.

“It’s a bit of a storm in a teacup, I guess it’s on the back of his slow start to the season; so he’s up there to be shot at really.”

Q. Do you think Rashford not turning up to training on that occasion could point to a lack of leadership in the United dressing room?

“In this day and age, if you’re not turning up for training and it’s because of the player going out; then you’ve got every right to feel disappointment in the dressing room.

“How that’s dealt with, I don’t know. Is it down to Bruno Fernandes as the captain? We had a lot of guys who would have let you know in no uncertain terms what you had done wrong.

“I was very fortunate to play in a team that had so many leaders. You look at the likes Steve Bruce, Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel.

“These were all big, strong characters with big egos and they were very professional, so it was a tough place to work in.

“I don’t think as many teams now have that kind of leadership in their teams, even at the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City. Maybe they lead in a different way, like Cantona did for us through his ability, talent and belief.

“I think City have some of those kinds of personalities who are very brave with the ball; but when it comes to the nitty gritty and fighting spirit, I don’t think there’s a lot of those players in the game now.”

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“Ratcliffe has come in to oversee the footballing side of things where we have been in the doldrums for a little while. It’s looking positive with the new CEO (Omar Berrada) we nicked from Man City, which in itself is probably a coup.

“He can now fully concentrate now on bringing success and it’s been a long time now. We went 26 years without winning the title before 1993, we don’t want it to be 26 years again before we’re actually competing for a title.

“I’m there’s a lot of clarity there, he doesn’t have to worry about what else is going on at the club as it’s purely the football side of things he’s looking at and the microscope will be on that I guess.”

Q. With talk of Dan Ashworth coming in as Director of Football from Newcastle, do you think that would be the correct thing to do? In your playing days it was very much one person in charge with the manager calling the shots

“The manager and sporting director have got to have a good relationship. I’ve spoken to managers who have been frustrated because they get players who have been bought for them.

“If you’ve got a style of football, a way of playing and you do your due diligence in terms of the kind of characters you’re bringing into the team then it’s all on your head.

“Now, who takes responsibility if a signing doesn’t work out, is it the manager’s fault or is it the sporting director’s fault? I’m guessing it can be very frustrating.

“In the example of the finest manager British football has ever seen, Sir Alex Ferguson, he basically did everything at the club. He brought people in to do coaching, brought people in to help out, but when it came to choosing players he did his due diligence.

“It wasn’t just about their ability, it was about what they were like off the field, with the kind of family background they came from. He did his homework on all these players before he brought them in.

“It doesn’t mean he always got it right, but generally he did get it right. If he brought them in it was on him if they failed. To get to where he got to, he had to get it right more often than not.”

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“It’s all about leadership and discipline from the top, you can see it in Pep Guardiola - he’s quite strict and takes no nonsense. Jurgen Klopp is probably the same and that’s why they are where they are, because they’re the leaders.

“They are the ones who instil discipline and have a little bit of fear about them, players don’t want to cross them because you’d feel the sharp end of their tongue.

“I can see it in those two, following Ferguson as well, and to me it’s no surprise that they’re the ones with teams at the top of the table. I think they have that in them, you wouldn’t want to cross swords with them.”

Q. You didn’t mention Ten Hag there, he has been at the club for a couple of years, dealing with a lot of situations in that time. How do you judge his leadership?

“I think he dealt great with some of the situations, which were very difficult ones when you look at the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba.

“He must have been thinking ‘Dear Lord’, but I think he dealt with them really well. I think both of them had to leave the club when they did, so I think he was strong in his judgement and leadership there.

“He’s come down hard on some players already, you had the Jadon Sancho issue and Rashford as well. This was obviously the second time he’d been in the spotlight for being out and, in other peoples’ eyes, drinking at the wrong time.

“It’s tough, and when things aren’t going well they manifest themselves even more. It’s not been a great start to the season, United are starting to come back more and they’ve got players back from injury.

“Rasmus Hojlund has started scoring goals, Alejandro Garnacho has started to look more of a threat. He had Martinez back for a while which was huge, but he’s out now again and so is Luke Shaw.

“We have started to find our feet a bit in the last few games, but now we’ve had the loss of Martinez and Shaw again which I think is pivotal.”

Q. One player who has stood out is Scott McTominay, how much can you credit him for staying in consideration when he might have left in the summer?

“I think he’s Manchester United through and through, I think he loves playing at the club and he loves playing in front of the fans at Old Trafford.

“It’s been difficult for him, because when Ten Hag came in he was left out of a lot of games and he found himself on the bench an awful lot. Every time he’s called upon, he’s come in and scored a goal or put in a good performance.

“His professionalism is 10/10, he’s brought into the culture at the club and he wants to stay at Manchester United.

“Ultimately, he’s at an age where he wants to be playing week-in-week-out and that’s a problem for Ten Hag to try and keep him happy. He has Christian Eriksen, Casemiro’s back now and Kobbie Mainoo has been terrific.

“Competition for places is what you need, so he’s in the mix there and he’s never let the club down. He wears his heart on his sleeve, gives his all and he’s got that uncanny knack of scoring goals, so long may that continue for him.”